Back in April 2019, I took my family on a very last-minute, majorly spontaneous trip to Walt Disney World resort in Florida. When I say last-minute, I mean I planned it in less than 30 days. In this post, I’m going to be sharing how to plan a cheap holiday to Walt Disney World, now I’ve got the benefit of hindsight!
- How to plan a Disney World holiday in under 30 days
- The right day of the week can get you a cheaper Disney World holiday
- Saving more money on your flights to Orlando
- Buy your Walt Disney World tickets separately
- Keep your Disney World holiday costs down with a food plan
- Walt Disney Dining Plans
- A cheap Walt Disney World holiday with off-site accommodation
- On-site accommodation at Walt Disney World
- Is car hire worth it on a Disney World holiday?
- Make use of the tools and networks out there
- Are you planning a Disney World holiday?
- Planning a cheap holiday to Walt Disney World FAQ:
It all happened on a bit of a whim one night in March when I decided I was truly fed up with life’s monotony. I’d had a couple of gins and then took to my computer to ‘finish some work’. Before I knew what was what, I awoke the next morning to find a holiday booking confirmation in my inbox.
It was a move that should’ve caused some panic, especially as I hadn’t actually told the rest of my family about my sudden desire to whisk us all off to Florida! Instead, I decided to use the greatest hangover gift ever to my advantage and plan the whole trip as a surprise.
One of the bigger shocks was the fact that I’d booked this trip with less than 30 days’ notice. Turns out I don’t like to do things by halves when I’m in the mood to be impulsive! Anyway, it all worked out brilliantly, and I was able to make a lot of surprising savings by doing it this way. I wouldn’t have thought it was even possible to plan a cheap holiday to Walt Disney World, but actually, it can be done.
This post contains some affiliate links to help you plan a cheap holiday to Walt Disney World.
How to plan a Disney World holiday in under 30 days
Before I go on, let me clarify that this was one method that worked for me. I’m quite happy to fly by the seat of my pants with things, but you might not be. If you’re the kind of person who likes to have everything planned and prepared in advance, then this might not sit comfortably with you. However, if you’re looking to save money and are happy taking a few chances, then keep reading!
The first things you need to consider are your possible travel dates and for how long you want to visit Walt Disney World. With it being based in Orlando, you’re not really going to be looking at a short break. My recommendation is to look for a 14-night stay at the minimum. This isn’t just because most holidays and tickets run for this length, but because your trip is going to take time.
If you’ve nothing else to compare this kind of holiday to than a UK theme park type of break then you’re in for a surprise. We stayed for two weeks and probably didn’t get around more than 50% of what was available to us.
Planning a cheap holiday to Walt Disney World is definitely possible but you need to get your expectations in line first and foremost. You might even be able to save money by stretching to a three-week stay if your family schedule can accommodate it!
The right day of the week can get you a cheaper Disney World holiday
Believe it or not, you can actually make some decent savings on the cost of your Disney World holiday by choosing midweek flights. Depending on your airline or holiday provider, it’s often the case that weekend departures add a couple of hundred pounds at least onto the cost of your flights.
I was able to save quite a bit of money by opting to fly on a Tuesday. If you look for departures on a Tuesday, Wednesday or sometimes Thursday, you’ll find that the prices are a lot lower than on a Monday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
You can also sometimes make savings by opting for indirect flights, which may involve stopping at another US city such as Atlanta or Boston. Personally, I didn’t want to do that with my five-year-old, but if you are looking to find the cheapest holiday to Walt Disney World possible, that might be an option to consider.
Saving more money on your flights to Orlando
You can further offset the cost of your flights to Orlando by booking through a cashback provider. If you aren’t already signed up for TopCashback, then you should be! They can link you up to major sites that provide holiday packages to Walt Disney World, as well as directly to flight providers.
It works by giving you a set percentage of your spending back as cash after you’ve made a purchase. So if you’re booking a holiday with a provider such as Virgin Holidays, you can go through TopCashback to their website and you’ll get a percentage of the cost of your booking back as cash.
Buy your Walt Disney World tickets separately
It’s tempting to book everything all together with the same holiday provider. Sometimes that is much easier and less fuss. However, if you need to save money on your Walt Disney World holiday then you can get your tickets separately. With less than 30 days notice before our flights, I decided that the best way to protect the short-notice budget I had was to do it this way.
It was a smart move because I was able to find combination tickets which allowed us 14 days of access to all the Walt Disney World resort parks and attractions for the price of 7 days.
Additionally, they gave us unlimited access to all three of Universal Orlando Resort’s theme parks and attractions too! This was a huge saving and offered a lot more flexibility in terms of which days I wanted to plan for different park visits.
They also had the FastPasses and Memory Maker built into the Disney World tickets, so I didn’t have to do anything extra to ensure we got the full experience. By booking the tickets separately I was able to save a lot of money, especially at short notice.
Keep your Disney World holiday costs down with a food plan
There are a couple of options for keeping costs down at Walt Disney World when it comes to food. It’s not like a traditional self-catering holiday really. When it comes to saving on the cost of eating, you do need to plan this one ahead. In hindsight, this is possibly the one area of planning a holiday to Walt Disney World that I wish I’d had a bit more time to think through. Still, I know what to do next time!
Option one (and the one I plumped for on our first trip) is to go self-catering and make use of packed lunches. I made sure we had an empty backpack in our suitcases that could hold two water bottles and a couple of lunch boxes. It sounds a bit school-trippy, but doing this saved us a lot of money on food costs. Snacks at the Disney parks are very expensive if you’re buying things off the cuff. I’m talking a tenner for an ice cream kind of expensive.
Freezing water bottles at night and taking them with us through the day was another great way to save money, as bottled water is really expensive in the parks too! We refilled ours at water fountains if we ran out – saved a fortune.
I planned for us to hit the nearest supermarket on day one and stock up on packed lunch supplies. I’d read that bringing packed lunches into the Disney World parks was fine, and it was! Although we got a few odd looks when we had our bags searched before entry, we managed to save a fair bit of cash by planning ahead.
Walt Disney Dining Plans
The other option available is to book a Disney Dining Plan prior to arrival. Now, I didn’t do this but I’m considering it for our next trip. There are different levels of the dining plan available, and they work across 100 different dining venues over the entire Walt Disney World Resort.
The only catch with the dining plans is that they’re only available to guests staying on-site, meaning you’ve got to be staying at one of the resort hotels to access them.
The dining plans do allow you to forget about spending costs once you’re actually on your holiday. However, they’re contingent on you staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, which could bump your costs up a tad, depending on which one you choose. This brings us to the next Disney World holiday consideration. Should you pick on-site or off-site accommodation?
A cheap Walt Disney World holiday with off-site accommodation
I chose to go with a holiday package that included off-site accommodation at a nearby villa resort in Kissimmee. In the main, this choice lowered the cost of the trip considerably. I ended up with a real bargain package as I can only assume the provider wanted to get the last rooms booked up before it was too late. I was a little concerned that for such a cheap price I’d end up with a raw deal when we got there, but I couldn’t have been more wrong; the apartment was amazing!
We had a three-bedroom flat with a bathroom, second ensuite, open-plan kitchen with breakfast bar, living room and balcony/terrace all to ourselves. It was gorgeous and felt like a home away from home. I loved the surroundings we were in too, it was such a nice complex with two pools, a splash pad and a children’s play area, not to mention a poolside bar and cafe that did the most incredible fish tacos!
One thing I wish I’d considered about staying off-site was the travel to and from Walt Disney World. It wasn’t particularly far away, but it did add an extra chunk of time onto our already long park days.
The other issue is parking. It costs $25 per day to park your car at Walt Disney World. At first, that doesn’t sound that bad but believe me that cost soon adds up if you’re visiting almost daily for two weeks. This was a major oversight on my part and one of the main reasons I’m considering an on-site stay for our next trip.
On-site accommodation at Walt Disney World
For future Disney World holiday plans, I’m looking at saving money by staying on-site. There’s a wide range of Disney hotels to choose from, but for me, one of the key factors has to be the options for family suites. After a long day of Disney exploring it’s important for the kids to get some rest and for the adults to have some time to decompress on their own!
So I’m looking at a holiday to Walt Disney World’s value resorts and in particular the All-Star Music Hotel. This is because they’ve recently introduced Family suites, which look like they’ll offer a bit more privacy and space. If I can book one of these with a decent enough window of time, I may have enough in the budget to add a dining plan to things too.
I think the difference with staying on-site is that it makes a difference if you book this further in advance, whereas with off-site accommodation you can make savings by leaving things to the last minute.
Is car hire worth it on a Disney World holiday?
We hired a car as it was included in the price of our package. It was a good thing for us as we were staying off-site and needed transport. Likewise, we needed it for our visit to Universal. However we didn’t factor in the cost of parking at the resorts, so with hindsight, this was an expense we maybe could’ve avoided.
If you don’t absolutely need to have a car on your holiday to Walt Disney World then I’d advise you to drop it from your booking package. You’ll save a couple of hundred pounds on the cost of your package. More importantly, though, you’ll save hundreds on parking charges with you’re in Orlando!
Transportation is free across the entire Walt Disney World resort hotels and parks, and if you’re staying on-site you’ll be able to get free airport transfers too.
Make use of the tools and networks out there
There are a wealth of websites and vlogs you can access to help you plan a cheap holiday to Walt Disney World. Additionally, you can start saving today for your dream trip with a savings pot using an app like Chip. If you add my promo code ECMQFB9K when you sign up, you’ll get a free £10.00 boost into your account to kickstart your Disney savings!
Another great forum to make use of if you’re wondering how to plan a cheap holiday to Walt Disney World is The Dibb. They have loads of information from seasoned Disney holidaymakers across their forums and blogs. You can also use their holiday planner tool to put together a provisional itinerary of your trip to Florida. I used this for my trip and it really helped to get things organised in under 30 days.
Are you planning a Disney World holiday?
Hopefully, this post has given you some tips and inspiration to get started with planning the trip of a lifetime! I didn’t think I’d ever have been able to afford a trip to Walt Disney World, but with some organisation, a bit of impulsiveness and some gin, anything’s possible!
Have you ever done Disney on a shoestring? Let me know in the comments below, and if you’ve found this post at all helpful then please do give it a share. You might also enjoy my Disney boards over on Pinterest if you’ve enjoyed this post.
Planning a cheap holiday to Walt Disney World FAQ:
Yes! It’s absolutely possible to do a cheap holiday to Walt Disney World if you’re prepared to get a bit impulsive about things and be flexible with your choices.
Not necessarily no. You can actually lower the costs of your Disney trip by booking parts of your holiday separately. Things like flights and tickets can be adjusted to help save money.
You don’t have to hire a car, but if you’re staying off-site you might want to. However, this can add extra costs to your trip, especially in terms of parking fees at the Walt Disney World Resorts.
Two ways: either take your own packed lunches or buy one of the Disney dining plans prior to arrival. Dining plans are only available to guests staying on-site at Disney hotels though.
Consider the day of the week that you book your departures. Tuesdays or Wednesdays are much cheaper days to fly out on!